Sunday, November 18, 2012

Our First Haul

Today we were invited to trailer with Cathi and her daughters and some other friends over to some local trails. This is the sort of thing we daydream about doing all the time but never have, lacking our own truck and trailer and also not knowing where to go around here.

When I lived in Arizona, I had literally unlimited miles of trail right out my back door. Things are different in Iowa. While we've learned a bit about how to explore along the gravel roads and fields of people we know, it's not the same as riding on a defined trail.

So we were keen to go along. We knew it could be a long ride over varied terrain, so I wasn't going to risk Steen this close to being healed. Which meant I'd  be riding Laredo.

We'd never loaded either Bear or Laredo before (though obviously they have both been hauled). We didn't have an opportunity to practice, and due to some logistics involving Sylvia's pony, Bear had to go in first. He was a total champ, following Brian into the trailer without hesitation. I brought Laredo next, and he stepped up with no problem as well.

In the trailer, Bear looked a little worried but Laredo was his usual laid back self. We drove. We unloaded. We tacked up. I climbed on. Laredo felt great. He was a little more energetic than usual, but happy to listen to my legs as we warmed up a bit before heading out.

On the trail, things went pretty well. Initially Laredo wanted to really walk out, so I had to work on keeping him off the horses in front of us. This is always challenging for me. With Laredo in particular, steady pressure on the bit gets you nowhere fast, and he was a bit distracted by the excitement of being out with a group. I had to work on finding the right amount of pull to adjust his speed.

Our first hiccup came when we reached a water crossing. The water was murky, deep enough to be almost to the horses' knees, and there was a slick mud slope on each side. Laredo marched right up to the muddy down-slope, then slammed on the brakes. He stood considering for a moment, then tried to hop around and go back the way we had come.

I was ready for him, and blocked him before he could go anywhere, using my heels and hands to tell him the only way he could move was forward. He looked at the water again, tried to turn again. I blocked him again. He stopped again. Then he just stood still.

One of the other riders, Heather, offered to come back across to see if he'd go with another horse. She rode her mare, Rain, into the water and up to Laredo, turned around and started slowly back across. I gave Laredo a nudge with my heels. You could almost see the lightbulb go off in his brain. He trucked down the slope, through the water and up the other side.

Next came Sylvia, who didn't want to cross and had to be encouraged by her mom, and finally Brian on Bear. Bear didn't even turn a hair. He tromped right through like it was nothing.

We continued on up a trail and into some woods. Laredo was still a little inclined to walk faster than the horse in front of him. I was concentrating very hard. I had to correct him a lot,  but I wanted to make sure my corrections were just and my releases complete. I also was trying to ride well, to move with him but encourage a slower walk with my seat. It was quite mentally demanding.

Still, Laredo was good. At one point another horse bumped into him on a tangled, narrow part of the trail, and he hopped around a little trying to find a place to go but didn't kick or get bent out of shape at all.

Then we got to a section that was mostly downhill, and that was the hardest part of the ride. Laredo wanted to hurry on the downhills, so I got into the habit of checking him at the top and making him wait so he had enough room, so I wouldn't have to drag on him when he was halfway down. He didn't like being held back very much, but he put up with it.

The best part of the ride came after we finished our loop and returned to the part of the trail that would take us back to the trailers. Heather offered me the lead and I took it. Laredo was able to move out and I could give him his head. He was great, walking fast, looking around, but not spooking. He did hesitate at a couple scary trees, but I was always able to get him to move past them.

After about twenty minutes of leading, I could feel Laredo growing fatigued. I fell back a few horses. The remainder of the ride was great. He was slowing down, so I didn't have to check him anymore. In fact we worked on moving in and out of the trot to keep pace with the faster leading horses. Going through the water on the way back was a non-issue.

It was getting dark as we pulled their saddles and loaded them up, but again both Bear and Laredo stepped up without comment. We hauled them home and put them back in the pasture in the dark. All in all, the outing was a great success. It was such fun to ride somewhere we'd never been before, and so affirming to know our horses can handle new experiences with such equilibrium.

Ride Time: 1:50
Horseback hours YTD: 141:25


  1. How fun for you guys! What was the name of the trail. We get into Iowa sometimes but usually not on the "east coast" of Iowa. Someday...

    Sounds like Laredo did fabulous for his first outing. The water, the rushing down hills - all things I have experienced with young horses and isn't it great how fast they adapt.

    I hope this is the first of many for you. And that Steen gets his turn soon.

    New saddle is great!

  2. Hi Tammy. The trail doesn't really have a name that I'm aware of. It's just this public area near Solon, IA. Here's a map with a marker on the parking area (which you can see on the satellite view):

    Apparently there are 600 acres of land networked with trails back there. We only scratched the surface when it comes to exploring them. We definitely have to go back.

    If you're ever in the area, let us know! It would be fun to meet you and Windy and/or Fancy in the flesh. :)


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