And have no clue where I am other than on a mountain.
So after K picked Paige up on Friday, the game plan was to leave out Saturday morning and go trail riding. Paige isn’t in shape by any means, so I figured we’d go on a nice relaxing ride for a couple hours, then hang out and talk horses for a similar amount of time, then head home. hahahahahahah.
We rode for a long time. Well, a long time for me. While my horse is apparently a very seasoned trail horse, she did not become that way with me. I can count maybe three times I’ve ridden on steep and/or rocky trails. The New River trail (my favorite because I’m a weenie) is level, flat, literally has footing, and lacks all scary edges where you may or may not plummet to your death, so my rides there don’t count as real trail rides as much.
Interestingly enough, I mostly didn’t feel like I was going to die on Saturday. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to walk on Monday (I’m never sore the day after), but alas, Monday has passed without me being sore. What is this sorcery? In case my complete lack of ride recaps this year hasn’t made it readily apparent, I have logged maybe one hour combined in the saddle so far this year and uh, yeah, the same goes for my saintly Paige, who toted me around like a champ.
So, in case you missed the point of the last two paragraphs, we as a team, are neither experienced with trail riding or in shape for it. Further yet, I have NO sense of direction. Truly, never let me guide you in a wooded area. I’m a landmarks type of girl, not a “turn left or turn right” type. Unless the turn is by a landmark-if the turn is in a cluster of trees that look like every other cluster of trees, I may send us the wrong direction.
Luckily I was with a group of seasoned trail riders who knew exactly where they were going, which felt kind of like everywhere by the time we were done. The footing was pretty rocky, and Paige just had front shoes on, so we mainly stayed in the back and took things very slowly.
Actually I was rethinking not having anything embroidered on my custom horn bag that I bought last year…”spectacularly slowly” seems to be Paige’s motto on trail rides (regardless of footing) and would be very fitting on the side of them. Speaking of my custom horn bag, I was pretty happy with it. I hadn’t really used it up to this point, so it was nice to try it out. I picked the colors (obviously…) and that I wanted a cup holder on the left and cell phone holder on the right. I’ll be honest, I didn’t use the cell phone holder at all because I have this fear that I would and somehow I’d get separated from my horse and be unable to call for help, as if we had any service out there anyway. So I kept my phone in my pocket unless I was snapping pictures. The cup holder was amazing because it meant that I could ride with my right hand, use my left to pull the thermos out, hit the button to open the lid, drink, close the lid, and put it back in the holder one handed. So I was pretty well hydrated the entire time because it was so easy to sip and ride. If you want a set of custom color trail bags, I 100% recommend the Bag Hag.
While I was well hydrated, Paige wasn’t big on drinking. We crossed a few creeks that she wasn’t interested in-unless pawing counts- and a water trough that was spring fed, and she still wasn’t interested. At the end of the ride, we walked across to the creek and she sipped a little once I was off of her, but then wasn’t interested again.
There was one long span of trail with the aforementioned rocky footing that was on a uphill grade that gave us some issues. She stumbled a lot and acted like she didn’t want to go forward to the point that I actually had to kick her forward, which made me feel bad. Once we got to the top of the hill, there was a clearing that has been named Hugo’s Meadow since it was cleared by hurricane Hugo in 1989.
Paige had been grabbing leaves off of trees on the way up, but really wanted to graze when we got here. I extended my arm and just let her graze the entire time we rested there, which ended up being a fair amount of time since another group of riders came up behind us and struck up a conversation. This was immediately prior to the spring fed trough, so I thought if she grazed some, she may be more inclined to drink. While that wasn’t the case, the grazing put a lot of pep in her step for the rest of the ride, so I was glad I let her refuel on some calories.
After we left the meadow, K mentioned that the route we were taking back down was shorter, but more steep, and that there was a section that I’d probably want to dismount and lead Paige down and that she was going to do the same since her horse wasn’t in tip top shape either. It wasn’t until we got closer that I was given more information on this section, which is apparently so steep that it has been dubbed “the slide.” When wet, it is not at all uncommon for the horse to lose their footing with their back feet and slide down it. Luckily the area was pretty dry, so the horses weren’t as likely to slide. I was going last since that was generally our position and it made me feel better to not have to worry about someone else’s horse rushing us down. When we got down for our turn and saw the rut, it was evident that Paige would have to go in the rut and I was to walk on the ledge, which was a great plan in theory until Paige decided that she liked my idea of walking on the ledge better. There was a pretty good drop off on the side of the ledge and no way that we were both walking on it at the same time and it was questionable that the ledge would bear Paige’s weight regardless, so K climbed back up the slide and told me to scurry down solo and that she’d get Paige in the rut.
I probably would’ve been able to get Paige in the rut myself, but between my general lack of coordination and the fact that my legs were utter noodles from 4ish hours of riding, I willingly handed Paige over and slowly scooched myself down the slide, nearly falling a couple of times myself. Below is K and Paige on the ledge (left) and Paige in the rut (right).
That was the scariest part of the ride. I hand walked for a little while further, then got back on. This section of trail was not my favorite and I was glad I had energetic post grazing Paige and not the tired version I pony kicked up the mountain prior. We rode in the woods a little while longer then opened a gate and came out in a field full of cattle.
Paige was VERY interested in the cows, and only halfheartedly grazed when we took a break here. It was nice to be out in an open area without rocks for a while, but the heat was pretty crazy compared to the cool air in the trees. We were soon back to the trees, but not until after following the cows a little ways.
The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful (just the way I like it…) outside of my butt being pretty sore from so much riding. I’m apparently in better shape than I give myself credit for due to this workout program I’m in. Despite not riding this year, I wasn’t sore until we’d been riding for…almost five hours? My exercise class (and weigh in) was last night, and while I dropped another two pounds, I was more surprised that I wasn’t sore from riding during the workout. Paige is likely sore, but she’s living at K’s and eating lots of grass and apples and is very forgiving, so she’ll hopefully be glad to see me when I make it out there this week.
Two Horse Tack sent me a halter bridle to review and it arrived just in time for the occasion. I really like it, and it worked well for leading Paige down the slide. I am going to add snaps to the reins after fiddling with those conway buckles though. Full review to come once I’ve used it a little more.
Outside of the slide, I found the ride really enjoyable in spite of the length/difficulty. I think once Paige is in better shape we’ll hit the trails again, but for now we need to work on getting in some practice for this ranch riding clinic we signed up for.
Here is the map of where we rode. I had A draw in green where we went because outside of a couple of places that I recognized, I wasn’t sure where we started or ended. I guess our trailer was parked somewhere between the two ends of the green line, because we did do a complete loop despite how this makes it look.
This map is about as good as it gets…because this was what I was going to show you to show where we rode.