Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Fall Trail Ride

Fall in the Pacific Northwest is fraught with perpetually gray skies and incessant rain. Once in a while, we get a few sunny fall days. During those rare times when the sun peeks its shy head out of the clouds and graces us with its presence, most of us native northwesterners jump at the chance to be outside.

Last weekend was one of those weekends. It was a low 60s, crisp, but sunny, fall day. If you read this blog regularly, you know my mare has been battling lameness issues. She’s certainly never going to be a dressage horse again, but she appears sound enough for casual riding. With that in mind and a beautiful Sunday afternoon, I decided to take her out for her first trail ride in about seven years.

So I tied Gailey in the crossties and groomed her. I hauled out the western saddle, dusted it off, and heaved it onto Gailey’s back. Dang, but I’d forgotten how heavy that thing is. I probably haven’t used it in seven years.

This would be the second time I’d ridden Gailey this year. With the exception of a short walk through my neighborhood, she hadn’t been out of an arena in about seven years. The cautious side of me heckled my more “reckless” side about how stupid it was to hop on the back of a horse without any preliminary work when the horse hadn’t been ridden more than once in a the past year. Let alone take this horse out on the trails by myself.

Yet, I know this horse. She’s never been one to need lunging before you ride her, always been a bombproof show horse, and a dependable trail horse. I decided to trust her.

I called to the dogs, got on Gailey’s back, and off we went through the gate in my arena which opens onto commercial timberland with miles of logging roads. She walked along, enjoying the day and relishing being outside of her small little world.

We ambled through the clear cut into the woods with Douglas Firs and cedars surrounding us on all sides. The cold bite of fall floated in the air, even though the temperature bordered around 60 degrees. Sunlight filtered through the tree limbs and dappled the gravel road with rays of sunshine. The dogs ran ahead sniffing all great the scents. The yellows and reds of the maple and alder leaves added color to the woods.

On a long rein, Gailey weaved back and forth across the road like a drunken sailor. I’m not sure why walking a straight line was such a challenge to her, but it was. I finally had to take up some rein just to keep her straight. I don’t know if she was sight-seeing or trying to find something edible close to the road which she could grab on the way by. Not that it mattered, we were on a trail ride not a food foraging expedition.

Our little ride lasted only an hour, but it brought back memories of how much I’d once enjoyed rides in these woods, especially in the fall. Of course, the rain has since prevented a repeat of last week’s ride, but I’m hoping for at least one or two more trail riding days before the really nasty weather sets in.

I hope you all get the chance to enjoy a little fall color with your horses.


Francesca Prescott said...

How nice to be able to ride Gailey on trail rides, Jami. But why did you get your western saddle out? Why not just ride in your dressage saddle? I trail ride in my dressage saddle; not that I have a Western one (they're soooo hard!!!). I remember going for a ride on a jumping saddle last year, before I retired Kwintus, and had to take my legs out of the stirrups after about half an hour as the short length was giving me cramps! Just curious as to why you've gone Western again (I know you ride dressage on the other horse), is it just because you felt like it? Lovely photos by the way. I still want to come and visit someday!

Whitney said...

Sounds like a lot of fun, you should consider yourself lucky to be able to do this!

Anonymous said...

Western is the only way to trail ride!!! Lots of strings to attach slickers, water bottles and lunches, nice big cushion-ie seat for your bum!!! Long stirrups with larger foot rests. I love my western saddles and having done a 5 hour trail ride in a dressage saddle would never ever go back!!! Hee hee!!! Different strokes for different folks I guess.
Maybe you need to ride in a western saddle designed for trails. It may make a big difference. I even practice dressage in my western saddle, I wonder if they would let me compete :D

Jami - good for you riding Gailey and enjoying the sunshine!!! I'm sure Gailey loved it just as much as you did!!! My fondest memories of times with my horses have been on the trails and not within the confines of riding rings.

Laura Crum said...

I loved your trail ride photos, Jami.I hope you get to ride again, soon.

Francesca, in my opinion its much safer to trail ride in a western saddle. Having that horn to grab when a horse makes an unexpected jump can really save you. I once rounded a blind corner on the trail and met another horse--both horses spooked violently. The other rider landed flat on the ground--I hung on. When I helped her up (she was fine), she turned out to be a much more experienced rider than I was. But she was in a dressage saddle. The difference between our respective results was my western saddle with its handy horn. If you ever try riding a cutting horse, you'll see what I mean. I don't think it could be done (or not by most folks) in an English saddle.

Once Upon an Equine said...

Glad you enjoyed some nice weather. It looks like a very nice ride. I love that wide path through the green, green forest.

HorsesAndTurbos said...

I trail ride in my dressage can grab the gullet if you need to - or the me, I've had plenty of experience with this! And I find them very comfortable...and more importantly, they fit my horses (both TB built) much better than a western saddle. If you ride in a dressage saddle, you'll find they are very much like a western saddle with the way you sit deeply, too. And you can do steep hills!

Now, there are some really nice endurance saddles out there, but I don't have $1,000 plus for one.

Oh, and I am not only enjoying trail riding, but did an Orienteering course on my gelding Friday a few weeks ago (fun!) and a 15 mile Endurance ride on my mare Starlette (fast fun!!)


horsegenes said...

Thanks for the view. It sounds like you and Gailey have a found something that works for both of you. Way to go. You have to love a horse that you can pull out of the pasture and just go without all the fuss.