Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Trail Rides

Parking lot in Port Gamble

Grace and I were invited to go on a trail ride last Sunday. It was a friends birthday weekend and she wanted to celebrate it out on the trails. The best part was these were trails that no one in the group had ever been on before. They eventually connect to the trails that we usually haul out to, but I had never made it out that far.

At the trailer after the ride

There is a small tourist town where we parked to get onto the trail head. I had no idea we could park there until last weekend. The town is an old mill town and it was all decorated for the holidays. There were 7 of us that hit the trails. The trails are nice wide logging roads that are very well groomed. All the trees that had fallen in the recent winter storm had been cleared and there was very little mud. I was really fortunate that the group I was with was ok with letting Grace take the lead. We only walked on the ride, but she set out on such a fast pace that I had to stop several times to allow the group to catch up. It didn’t always used to be this way....

When I bought Grace as a 3 year old, she had only been worked in an arena. She was turned out during the day in a large pasture with a hill. She had no problem galloping up and down the hill with her sister Ginger, but she had never been ridden off the confines of a flat arena. The woman I bought her from was adamant that if I took Grace on a trail ride I would only “ruin” her. She pretty much told me I would “ruin” my horse if I did anything with her.

When we moved to another barn, I started to take Grace, who was now almost 5 out of the arena. Out first trip out was a ride down the barn’s driveway. It was on a steep hill and it became very clear that Grace had no clue how to walk down a hill with a rider on her back. She was very careful with each step she took, almost sitting down at one point on her hind end. It was a bit of a shock to me, every horse I had owned in the past thought nothing of hitting the trail. I grew up galloping up and down the steep hills; I just assumed it was natural for my horses.

We eventually moved on to a long narrow trail which was a short walk from the barn. It cut through a large piece of property. There was tall scotch broom on either side of the hill. That was the trail where Grace learned to lope. She hated to lope in the arena. As soon as I would ask for the lope, she would stop dead and back up across the arena. She had been punished at one point for going too fast and she was not going to make that mistake again. Out on the narrow trail I would let her long trot until she fell into a lope. There was no where for her to go, so I had no fear of her taking off. One time she spooked at something and jumped into the scotch broom. When got herself wedged up to her shoulders in the brush I was laughing so hard I almost couldn’t help her get out. By the end of that summer she was able to gallop that trail. She has also become more willing to lope in the arena.

The first time we went out to the trails in a group Grace kept getting left being the group. She would jig and jog to catch up. He walk was incredibly slow. The more we went out on the trails the more it improved. After I moved Grace to my house, we started to trail ride with Jeanni and Jasmine.
Jasmine is FAST! There is a stretch of trail where we would always gallop. I quickly learned to give Jeanni and Jasmine a head start so that Grace and I would not end up in the rooster tail of mud and dirt from Jasmine’s hind hoofs. Jasmine taught Grace that she could run. I am still trying to convince Grace that she doesn’t always have to run just because we are out on the trail. That’s a tough one because I enjoy the gallops and it takes me a little while to settle down after a good run. I really have to work to stay calm and think “WALK”, otherwise I spend the ride sending mixed signals to Grace (ok, walk now – but I really want to run – ok but we need to walk...). If I bring my dog Belle along she is no help at all. She knows the areas where we tend to open up and run. Belle will come up to Grace’s shoulder and bark at us as if to say “C’mon – let’s go!” One time I had planned to just lope and next thing I knew we were flying down the trail, the horse and dog feeding off each other’s energy, with me just along for the ride.

The last two group rides we’ve gone on have been at the walk. Grace is really good as long as she gets to take the lead. I know I need to address the jigging when she is behind another horse, but there are times I just want to enjoy a nice trail ride. Trail riding has been wonderful for Grace. We both enjoy it and she ends up working without even knowing it. Every time we haul out to the logging trails, I tell myself I need to do this more often. Grace and Belle agree!

Forgot to mention that Grace wore her sleigh bells!

What do you mean I have to hold still for a picture?


  1. Looks like you guys had fun :) Gracie mustve been happy to be wearing *her* bit and headstall again. She probably was going "eww gross Milo slobber". :)

  2. I don't think she really likes that headstall. It makes her face sweat, she rubs her face on her legs like crazy when we are done. She does like her blue ostrich headstall with all the bling!

  3. Sounds like she's gotten so brave with you :) What a great way to celebrate a birthday!