The Rider’s Inner Monologue: Attempted Trail Ride
Well, here we are, back again at the barn with a nervous knot in my stomach. If this seems familiar, it may be that you’re remembering the last time we hung out on ‘Vet Check Day’. (If you weren’t with me on that adventure, you’re welcome to check it out, here, but I’d highly recommend some calming herbal tea beforehand.) If this is your first time meeting me here, my name is Jenna, I’m a SmartPaker, and you’ve found your way into my inner-monologue of rehabbing my 20-year-old former-eq-horse-turned-dragon, Hershey. Please be forewarned I’m a bit of a hot mess, but my stress-coping mechanism is humor, so welcome and enjoy!
Since Vet Check Day I’m happy to report that Hersh and I have been walking under saddle and it’s even been mostly under control! After a lot of snorting, some impromptu acrobatics, and maybe a few hidden cookies in my pocket, Hershey has accepted the fact that right now we’re just walking. We’ve kept our walks to strolls around the barns, arenas, and stalls mostly, trying to keep it safe and comfortable. In between rides, we’ve been trying to venture farther and farther on foot, too. Hersh is a well-known pansy when we leave the security of the sandbox, but he’s been so darn good that today we’re going for it! We’re going for a trail ride. Well, we’re going for a trail ride after we walk around the security of our indoor arena to be sure all four feet are landing calmly one after the other.
And now we’ve arrived at the point where my heart is in my throat. We’re saddled up, my helmet is on, we’ve done our indoor walking, and we’re going to try and walk quietly up the very safe lane between the grass paddocks. Are you ready? I’m not sure I am. I am sure that I should not have had that snack before coming to the barn today. The good news is that all four feet are still following one after another, but the bad news is that the snorting has started, and the rhythm of those four feet is already a little erratic. Amidst the sounds of birds chirping and trees blowing in the wind there’s also a weird metallic sound. What is that? Why is it coming from my horse? Oh dang it, Hersh, please stop chomping.
Do you ever just feel your horse’s entire spine tense underneath you? If you haven’t, just know it’s fairly unnerving. If you have, then you know exactly how my breath caught in my throat just now. Deep breaths. Please don’t bolt. Please don’t bolt. Please don’t bolt. Why do I ride you in a snaffle? We’re only allowed to walk. Please don’t bolt. Thankfully the Gods of Bolting (or Gods of Not Bolting?) seem to have heart my silent prayer. Amidst lots of ‘whoa’ and ‘such a brave boy, good man, Hersh’ we seem to be okay with just standing and looking around like a giraffe. Still snorting, still chomping, but not bolting. I’ll take it. Can we take a few more ste- nope. That was a bounce onto our back legs. Message received, Hersh. We put in some good time and I think we’ve gone far enough for this ex-show-horse’s comfort level and I’m so proud of our- good grief, we’ve made it about 1/3 of the way down the lane, the barn behind us is still in sight. Oh well, you can’t win them all, right? While we’re here, though, hold tight, photo op.
To all you folks out there who can do relaxing trail rides – I envy you. But for now, I guess I’ll just keep telling Hersh how brilliant and wonderful he is and turn around and head back to the – HERSH WHAT ARE YOU DOING? It’s been at least four years since we’ve done lateral work, but this has to be the most brilliant half pass I’ve ever felt. Half pass? Side pass? Leg yield? Why am I so useless at dressage? Wow, has he always been capable of this? This is, oh gosh, this is trotting. Hersh, WHOA. Whoa? Please stop. Or don’t stop I guess, just don’t go faster? Okay, that seems to be a good truce. I’m not sure which of us will be more sore tomorrow. Not too much farther now, can we try going straight? NOPE. NOPE we cannot handle that. Back to half-leg-side-yield-passing to the left and then again to the right. I wonder if I could ever actually get this in an area? … Sigh. Unlikely. Okay, there it is, the opening back to the barn. We made it, the sound of hooves on concrete has never sounded so good! Okay. How soon can I dismount? Oh gosh, bad idea, legs are jelly. Pats for Hersh, though. Even through all that he’s still ridiculously cute, so we have that going for us.
Well, that was a good lesson- no attempted trail rides until we’re at least cleared to trot. I guess we won’t go chasing trail rides, we’ll stick to the indoor and outdoor arenas that we’re used to. (That’s a throwback for all my fellow 90s kids reading this.) For now, cold hosing, wrapping, and lots of liniment. If you can keep your fingers crossed that we didn’t do any damage to our rehabbing with our impromptu lateral work that would be awesome- though he felt super sound which I think is kind of encouraging? If you have made it through this horrifying ride with me, you have my thanks, your moral support was much appreciated. Also, I’m taking all tips and tricks on how you keep your horse calm and happy on adventures! If you’ve had a nervous or anxious horse outside of the ring, let me know what’s worked best for you guys.
I’ll look forward to your thoughts and help- and maybe we’ll see you again soon! I promise next time I’ll try to make our time together less harrowing, you deserve that much for sticking with me through Vet Check Day and now Trail Ride Attempt. Okay, I’m going to go finish putting Hersh up aka feeding carrots and fluffing his stall. I hope you make it out to the barn, too, and have a more successful day than I did! #HaveAGreatRide