|Tucker: Gee, Sugar, you're so pretty. Sugar: Nom. Nom. Nom.|
Anyway, I have something fun to write about! You know how Denny Emerson and George Morris often point out how riders today spend so much time in rings or showing that they never ride out on terrain? Well, call me old school, but I love what these guys have to say, and though I've always been big on riding out, this summer I've made a concerted effort to do much more of it.
Christie Hoffman Farm Park is just a quick ride away from our barn, and it's got scads of trails and open fields to ride through and loads of obstacles to jump over.Every year the Tewksbury Trail Association does a trail pace there, and this year my blogging buddy Marissa and her horse Tucker teamed up with Sug and I to do it.
Marissa and I get along like peas and carrots, and our horses get along great as well. Tucker adores Sugar, and Sugar is content to be adored while she eats all of Tucker's hay. Win-win, right? So off we go, mimosas at the ready for a post-ride celebration. It's one of those gorgeous September days, the kind where the sun is out and it's comfortable but not cool. We set off like a giddy Thelma and Louise before things got ugly.
|What?? This thing is how many miles???Did you pack rations?|
Sug is 17, and the ride was supposed to be 8.5 miles or so. We'd done a lot of prep-work, but I was still concerned about taking it easy and going at a pace that was easy for her. Well, Madame Mare and her buddy had other ideas. They wanted to trot, and not just trot, they wanted to TROT. As in, "Here's at my best Totilas impression, Mom!" I can't get my mare to lengthen at home to save my life, so of course the irony was killing me. Then we got to an open field, Marissa and I just looked at each other, and to tell the truth, I think the horses were galloping before we asked them. We were laughing like loons, Sug was tossing her head, and Tucker was doing his best Seabiscuit impersonation.
|Nah, we're not having any fun at all.|
We galloped a lot that afternoon. Basically, we were totally accessing our inner 13 year old and having a blast remembering all the fun stuff we used to think nothing of doing. We'd walk for a while, then turn into an open field. I'd ask Sug how she felt about a gallop, and she'd be three strides into one before i finished the question.
"Wanna jump that?"
|Ambassadors for equestrian sport.|
We met cool people, ran into old friends, and tailgated with some folks who were new to the neighborhood and wanted to get a better look at the horses. They had mimosas, so of course Marissa and I had to go say howdy. They also had carrots, so Tucker and Sug were happy to stop as well. Tucker took his carrots like a perfect gentleman, and Sug did her best Great White Shark impersonation. We posed for pics with every single person there and then headed out on our way. (Clearly we were not worried about time allowed!)
We had some really funny moments at some of the streams and water obstacle. Not shocking, as Sug is somewhat aqua phobic, but she's been getting better. In the first part of the course we had to walk through a stream that was about 10' wide, then do a long loop and cross back over it. We've practiced crossing this stream a lot during our weekend trail rides, so had no problems.
However, when we got to a 6' wide stream at the bottom of a deep gully, Sug clearly felt it was time to rethink this trail pace silliness. Tucker plowed through with no issues and waited on the other uphill bank. Sug hemmed, hawed, debated, demurred and fussed. I looked at Marissa and said "She's gonna jump" at the same moment that Sug rocket-launched herself skyward. She landed scrambling on the other bank, with me hanging halfway out the side door and scrambling back into the tack.
She did the same thing over over a teensy tiny trickle of water about 20 minutes later, although this time she didn't launch quite so far and I didn't come at all close to buying real estate. All went well until we got to the finish and the water hazard. Now, The Sainted Mare is a jumper, and as such, feels it is her duty to go over water, not through it. She also has a marked mistrust of any water she can;t see the bottom of. We got to this tiny banked pond and she said, "Oh, Hell No!"
Tucker, prince that he is, trotted right through. Sug pulled an Oscar-worthy drama llama routine on the bank, prompting Marissa and Tucker to circle back and rescue us with a lead through. Sug did her best to jump the water, and we would up landing with a crashing splash in the middle of it. She sniffed the water, snorted, sniffed it again, and leaped to the other bank. Did I mention there was a photographer getting all of these shenanigans on film? Priceless.
|Sug: Are you sure there aren't any alligators? Tucker: None. And there are no cougars up on that hill, either.|
|Pongo, the cutest beastie at the event.|
Denny and George are right, riding out is a hell of a lot of fun! I'm still grinning, three days later.