Thursday, August 05, 2010

Uncharted Territory

A week ago Monday I decided one of my biggest problems with Steen is that he and I still don't have a "ride." With all my previous horses I had access to miles and miles and miles of trails, but there was still just one ride I did most of the time. It varied slightly per horse, and it was my go-to circuit I could dash around in 45 minutes or so.

The problem for me here is I don't know the land around the barn. By the time I got my first horse in AZ I had biked and hiked every trail within a large radius of my house. Here, the only places I know are the ones I've already gotten to on horseback, and there aren't many of them.

Last week I told myself I just have to explore. Even if this means going out alone on a horse whose behavior on trails is far from docile. The truth is I see the value in arena work, but I'm never going to love it like I love a good trail. I have been feeling increasingly frustrated with my riding set-up lately.

So, I pulled up the satellite function in google maps and planned a route that went in a loop along the margins of corn-fields and returned to the barn after just under two miles. Then I planned a back-up route that consisted of mostly gravel roads, in case some of the "trails" I saw online weren't passable.

I set out and things did not start well. Steen was jumpy and disinclined to leave the area around the barn. Once I got him past all the scary farm equipment behind the machine shed, he improved for a while, then deteriorated once we got to the end our familiar grassy strip between corn-fields. In fact he got so worked up at that point I considered turning back. But I didn't. I kept on.

Not long after, we left Cathi's land, and that's where the real adventure began. Two gates, one "no trespassing" sign, two groups of three huge dogs, two SUV's, a swarm of biting flies and the necessity to revert to the back-up route later, Steen and I finally made it back to the barn. We'd ridden about 3.5 miles, half of that on gravel. But he'd weathered the chaos so well, I could hardly believe it. His behavior was by far the worst in familiar territory, but as soon as we got off into land he'd never seen before he seemed to relax and trust me to get him home.

Nevertheless, it was not a good route. There was way too much gravel involved, and not enough fun landscape. Steen is not shod, and his feet were a bit chipped by the time I got him home. So, then I had to wait all week for the farrier to come fix him up before I could ride again...

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