So, the barrel race. I got to the barn bright and early this morning and got cute pony looking domesticated again. Normally we would trailer in, but EC had some other commitments so we had to trail ride over to the equestrian club grounds. A huge part of my real life job is interpreting aerial and satellite imagery, so I might have taken an advance look at the area and made myself a little map. What my computer couldn't really tell me is just how technical those trails are. Oh my goodness, eventers are a hard core bunch! Honestly, there is very little that frightens me on a trail, particularly if I'm on Bridget. There were spots on these trails though where I was really unsure. We have a steep trail at home everyone calls "suicide hill". The one we rode today made that look like a beginner hill. It also ended in a fairly sketchy creek crossing (logs jumbled up and lots of flat,slippery rock). That was sort of the theme of the ride...lots of logs, steep drop offs and banks, and lots of water crossings. The forests are gorgeous and the area is nice enough, but if I was hiking I'd be seriously wondering if I could get a horse through them. It seems that they were labelled as "difficult" mountain biking trails for a reason! At any rate, Bridget is a gem and we survived. It took about an hour to get to the club grounds in total, with about 30 minutes of that what I would consider accessible only for really solid and experienced horses.
The kids immediately started prepping for the races, but a nice man that rides at our barn invited us along for more trail exploring. Another girl who was quite familiar with the area offered to give is a tour of the better trails. After the interesting expedition on the way over I half considered staying put, but she said these were nicer trails and she could show me where there were some x country jumps. OK then, game on!
As promised, the trails leading away from the other side of the grounds were much nicer for horses. We rode for about half an hour on a mix of gravel roads and got to the perimeter of a golf course. Bridget wasn't overly happy about being in the line of fire behind the driving range, but I figured the odds were good no one was going to hit one that far and over the fence. From the golf course, a short trail took us up to a road with a bunch of logs placed along the sides to jump. Bridget and I trotted into the first one, which looked inviting even though it was on an uphill. The closer we got, the bigger it seemed to get, and of course once we were right on top of it I realized it was quite large for us and also twice as wide as I thought - there was a second log stacked in behind! Bridget was game though and got us safely over. After that, I stuck to the tiny stuff and we happily trotted through. I don't think our little adventure would be EC approved, particularly the first log! Our homework was canter poles, and since Bridget can have a faulty forward button I am supposed to canter any and all things so she gets the idea jumping = canter and forward, not an excuse to slow down and look.
Long story short, by the time we got back to the club grounds we'd been in the saddle 2.5 hours already and opted to just head home. We avoided one of the creeks and went over a large metal decked bridge. That's a new one for Bridget. It was quite loud and echo-y and I think she scared herself a little nearing the end of it. You know how it goes, they get worried and scramble/trot a little and then the bridge gets louder and scarier...poor Midge!
Sketchy trail and creek seemed just as hairy on the way home, which is saying something, I guess. At least now I have some more trails to explore, and the nice man I mentioned wants to come with me to explore some more routes. Bridget could use some trail boot camp to increase her fitness. She wasn't hot or sweaty when we got home, but I could feel her hind end especially was getting pretty tired from all the steep grades.
I drove back over to watch some of the barrel racing and drill team demos. It looked like a lot of fun and had me wishing for a more forward horse. I'm glad I didn't end up entering, as it was a pretty competitive class. Midge is a fabulous little mare, but today, even in a group of cantering horses, she's like "oh hey, let's stop and eat something instead" followed by "ugghhhh this is so haaarrrdddd, I hate life" (complete with pinned ears and angry mare faces at my spurs). To give her her due, our friends today consisted of one Arabian pony and 4 upper level eventers. Sorry Midge, they all much more athletic than you and it's hardly fair to ask you to keep up. I do love that she thinks angry mare faces will make them wait for her or not pass her :)
I'm discouraged we are a year in and still don't have an enthusiastic canter, particularly as we are surrounded by all the baby OTTBs and eventer bred horses that are bred to move and have zero difficulties cantering around and jumping little things, even with minimal miles under saddle. I'm forever grateful for what Ms Bridget is good at though, today's trail ride being a prime example of that. Fingers crossed we can make a lower level eventer out of her yet, but if not, I like her and she makes me laugh, and that counts for a lot!
I think she can have tomorrow off, then we have a jumping lesson Monday night!