Saturday, May 22, 2021

Solo Trail Ride

I was planning on taking Yoshi over to my friend's house this morning to trail ride from there. She wasn't feeling well though, but I was already awake and fully loaded at 6:15 AM, so we diverted to a state park about 20 minutes away. I wasn't quite sure how solo trail riding would go; we've gone around trails from both barns he has been at, but never hauled someplace to trail ride alone. Given that this is the biggest spook he's ever done (glad the pivo captured this before it wandered off to film the woods for the entire second half of my ride yesterday). I felt pretty confident at least giving the trails a try. 

He unloaded well at the trail head and immediately started eating grass. Not one of my favorite habits, but taking a green horse out on trails by themselves for the first time? Yeah, we'll finesse those things later. I tied him long to let him keep eating until I had to get his head up so I could do up the girth. Turns out whether or not I can tell from photos, he has definitely gained some weight. My dressage saddle has been relegated to "Does not fit at all, do not use" status (more on that in a later post) so jump saddle with fluffy half pad it is. It hasn't been on him since mid-February, and my 50" girth was really hard to do up. To the point I thought I might end up taking a very short bareback trail ride since the bareback pad was the only other option I had in the trailer. But we finally managed it, and I bridled him and we headed through the gate. The state park has shared bicycle trails as well as horse only and bike only trails. Last time I came here with friends (not with Yoshi), we got really quite lost and ended up going almost 8 miles. The map... meh... kinda shows what is what? Yoshi was not interested in standing still while I examined it, so I just made a mental note to pay attention to where we came from so that I could retrace if a loop was not becoming apparent. I turned on my garmin watch as well to track time and distance.

He stood about as well as he stands at home while I got on from a wooden block and then we set off. The first part of the trail was pretty narrow and wound through shaded woods. He dealt with the woods and scenery just fine but did stop a lot to sniff all the manure on the trail. Another deal I made with him was that he could stop and sniff as much poop as he wanted as long as he stayed sane. Not sure he was aware of our deal, but regardless, he held up his end of the bargain really well. 

We saw a couple of deer in the woods and at the edge of a large open field. He was mildly interested/excited and took a few sideways steps when one took off, but after that was completely not bothered. We were about to emerge from the woods onto the powerline cut when we encountered three loose cows about 30 meters away from us. We all froze for a solid 10 seconds. I was trying to figure out the likelihood of the cows running at us rather than away, the cows were trying to figure out how panicked to be, and Yoshi was... staying pretty damn sane. His head was pretty high up and I could feel his heart pounding, but he didn't give that feeling like he was about to spin and bolt. The cows decided to high tail it outta there, away from us, which made him want to turn around and leave at a walk, but I stopped him from turning. After a minute or two, I could actually feel his heart rate slow down under my leg and I asked him to walk forward. He took a few tentative steps and then stopped again. We waited a bit longer and then I asked again. This time he settled into his nice forward walk and we headed out onto the power line cut. 

We mostly walked the power line cut, but did trot up the hill once. We saw a lot more deer and one mountain biker. The biker caused only a small pause in Yoshi's stride as we headed down the hill towards him. Eventually I found the second part of the loop back off the power line cut and we headed back into the woods towards the parking lot. 

On the way back home we passed over a couple of culverts and by a large pond/wetland that had ibis, a great blue heron, and several egret. The ibis all took off when we rode by, which barely registered in his pace. Once we arrived back to the trailer, he seemed much more relaxed than he had been before. I let him eat the delicious parking lot grass for a few minutes before loading back up and heading home. 

I am SO SO happy with him. What a sane, lovely trail horse. It is really fun and exciting getting to know him. I had Zing for so long I could pretty much predict exactly what he would and wouldn't spook at and how he would spook. He was absolutely against cows and goats. It took until he was almost 20 before we could even pass near cows without passaging and snorting the whole way. If the road was too narrow he would get light in front and try to spin. Other than farm animals, not much got to him, especially once he learned what I meant by "Look over there" when I pointed out dogs that might rush fences as we went by. Leila only occasionally spooked at things, she was in general a much lower energy horse than Zing. But when she did, she had a very tidy rock back and spin that nearly unseated me a couple of times and actually did land me on the ground once. When that happened, she trotted a few more strides to make sure the cows she spooked at weren't after her, but then stood patiently while I caught her. Yoshi? Well, given all that we saw today, I feel fairly safe in saying that stop and stare is his go to spook. There may yet be a spin or bolt in there, but he did not give me that feeling AT ALL today, which is really cool. Even when he tried to turn away from the cows, he basically turned in a small circle, he didn't spin. 

He really was absolutely amazing from start to finish. He had a brief hesitation loading in the dark, but once I let him pause and look at the inside of the trailer he walked right on. He hauled beautifully and patiently stood in the trailer eating hay while I used the bathroom at the park entrance. He didn't hesitate at all loading up to come home. During the ride, we went over some varied terrain and saw deer, cows, mountain bikers, and birds, all NBD. He also felt super sane when we trotted, never gave me the feeling that I didn't have working brakes or steering. We ended up going 5 miles in about 80 minutes with 172 feet of elevation gain (that's a lot for FL!). I would have loved to stay out longer, and we will in the future, but this was an excellent first solo off-property ride. Since we had such an early start, he was back and settled into his field with hay by 10 AM. 


  1. Aww what a good boy Yoshi!! And good for you too for deciding to carry on despite the change of plans. Sounds like a pretty great day!!

    1. He was super!! It was a great day, I'm definitely going to have to drag myself out of bed this early for future trail rides, totally worth it for the cool weather and lack of people on a Saturday morning.