Sunday, June 07, 2009

Owning Your Own Horse Rocks

I’ve had the opportunity to take a couple of lovely trail rides over the last couple of weeks. We’ve had some lovely weather here and now that I have a horse, I’ve been able to enjoy it in the best way possible – from the back of a horse.

A little over a week ago, Marilyn (one of my barn friends) invited me for a trail ride for that Saturday. It turned out to be one of those perfect weather days – sunny and warm, but not hot (and definitely not humid). I don’t even think there were many bugs around, we couldn’t have asked for a better day. We met at the barn and tacked up and right away got out on the trails. I love riding with Marilyn, not only is she great company and a bold rider, she also knows the trails inside and out, so I can always rely on her to find our way around and to also always show me something new that I didn’t know was there. On this day she decided that we were going to ride out to the Hollis town orchard, Woodmont. We rode through our usual trail network and out to Silver Lake (State Park). We then entered another trail network beside the Silver Lake parking lot that I hadn’t been aware of. Like the other trails that we’re familiar with, these are wonderful, well-maintained and well-marked paths that were just a pleasure to ride on. We even passed a branch of trail that had some jumps set up across the path. We didn’t ride down and jump them, but noted it for future reference. We finally reached a branch in the trail and were thrilled to see a sign actually pointing us towards Woodmont. Marilyn said that this was pretty new, in the past you apparently had to ride out the trail in the other direction, and then ride down a busy road for a bit. This trail actually put us right across the street. Along this trail we came to a number of wooden bridges crossing various streams and marshy areas. I was unsure how Ruby would react to these, but she followed Finn (Marilyn’s horse) over each without issue or even the slightest hesitation. What a good girl!

After navigating the trail, it brought us directly across the street from a path into the orchard. Woodmont is a town-owned orchard that is apparently open to the public and, because it’s public, one can apparently ride anywhere on the property! It was just gorgeous. We picked through the bottom on the path where the footing was a little deep and uneven, but then got to this lovely grass path up a hill, on which we were able to do a good, brisk canter / hand-gallop for a good while. Since we were going uphill, we pretty much just let the horses go – since it was unlikely that they were going to be able to get away from us much (they’re both so good anyway, I don’t worry too much about getting run away with anyway). It was just wonderful. We were rewarded from the gallop with this beautiful panoramic view at the top of the hill – just gorgeous. I can only imagine how incredible it must be in the Fall!

After standing at the top of the hill for awhile chatting, enjoying the view and allowing our horses to rest a bit, we made our way down the other side of the hill and through the rest of the orchard. Unfortunately we came to a point where our way was blocked by a bunch of felled trees and branches and so we had to re-route through an adjacent trail that put us inside of the Silver Lake State Park. The park is pretty quiet right now because we’re at the beginning of the season, so it wasn’t a big deal, but in the future I think if I ride back to Woodmont, I’ll just back track so as not to go through it again. I don’t want to push our luck with where they’re allowing access on horseback. Luckily neither horse left a deposit inside of the park, so our presence on that day at least didn’t have much impact. After Silver Lake, we crossed the street and were again back in our original trail network and a meander around the edge of our local orchard and back to the barn. It was a wonderful ride.

Today I took another trail ride with another friend from the barn, Jennifer. I was really glad that Jennifer called, because I was feeling rather lazy after a busy Saturday and late night and, although I was dressed and planning to go to the barn, I might not have made the effort to go out on the trails otherwise.

I was the trail expert today – heh. Jennifer had only been out on one other trail ride from the barn, over a year or so ago and that ride apparently ended in a bit of a disaster with a bee sting and an unexpected allergic reaction. She told me that she was a bit of a nervous trail rider to begin with, so this was kind of a test – dipping her toe in the water, so to speak. Well, for a nervous trail rider, Jennifer did great! Willing to trot and even canter in places, she trusted me to get her around the trail and not get too lost. We rode through the local orchards and into the trail network. For our first time, Jennifer didn’t want a long, long ride, so I took her out to Silver Lake and back. Still, it probably ended up being about an hour and twenty minutes or so. Anyway, it was another delightful ride. Ruby was great. Not too spooky, very responsive, smooth and FUN. Jennifer had a great time and ended up encouraged and excited for future trail rides. Lastly, it was the perfect thing to do on a wonderful late Spring/early Summer day in New Hampshire.

These trail rides are perfect examples of why I was so motivated to have my own horse. I love my lessons and feeling like I am making progress in my riding. I love jumping and I love dressage and even (at least, in theory) competing. But to be able to spend a few hours out on the trails and through fields and orchards on the back of my own horse, well there is just nothing better, in my mind. Life is good.

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