Thursday, April 18, 2013

Killer little horse

Where "killer little horse" means this little horse kicks some major ass.

I had two absolutely stellar rides on Miss Q this weekend past. I decided to hack out onto our trails and see how bad they really are. Damage from Sandy is still present in so many areas and while the hunters have cleared some of it, clear for a 4-wheeler isn't necessarily clear for a horse. I got a helluva lot farther than I expected I would though!
My "crazy" mostly-Arabian horse. Standing calmly and idly awaiting me to
saddle her up. She's also sporting the new [used] bridle from Missy and Mare.

Instead of heading straight to the main logging road (a much more open area) I headed right uphill on one of the older logging roads turned 4-wheeler trail on our Saturday ride. Q was a fiery energy demon, but not in a manic way. I had to get off once to walk under a low lying tree and she tried to walk in front of me which is very unlike her. Once mounted again I let her tear up the hill a ways, ducking small limbs as we went. Right at the junction of two logging trails - my main one and a spur I've never explored - there was a sizable tree down on the main drag. It was positioned such that there was no [safe] way around it. I figured, well, what the hell, I'll explore the spur.

West Virginia was logged very extensively in the early 1900s. Most trails I ride that aren't int he Nat'l Forest are older logging roads. Most are narrowed down as the successional forest grows up on the edges, but some that were "main" roads for getting all the lumber out are still very established as they were cut wider originally. From my experience with these roads, the ones through the woods tend to contain a main trunk that leads directly to the old haul road and then many spurs off the main trunk that, more often than not, seem to dead end. Fortunately, many of these spurs behind our barn actually connect or were connected by hunters and game!

The spur we explored had a LOT of low branches. A LOT. However, there are huge perks to having a short horse and being a dynamic rider.

I spent much of my ride time that day ducking down and hanging off one side or the other of Q much as Native Americans would do to shoot from their horse while using the horse's body to protect their own.

Q was a super star.

I was so impressed with her forwardness, her thinking, and her willingness to bull-doze through brush and branches as I did acrobatics on her back to maneuver myself around the obstacles.

Saturday's ride

The spur eventually connected back to the main trunk trail I'd had to abandon before. Where we popped out there was a huge barrier of trees and limbs in the homeward direction and more in the away direction. However, the barrier in the away direction was very easy to maneuver around.

We continued along the main trunk without any more issues. It was nice and open. The more mature forest in this area didn't suffer from the heavy snow the way the successional forest had. I was even able to let Miss Zoomy Kahbloomy open it up and gallop a bit!

We branched away from the main trunk onto another spur I knew to connect to the old haul road. This spur had been in wretched shape until I cleared it last year. I was pleasantly surprised to find it in better shape than most everything around it. We trotted down to the haul road in short order and headed left, deeper into the forest and away from home.

The next section of trail was a total and complete mess last year. I spent a lot of time on it cutting side branches and saplings that were taking over the trail. That work definitely paid off. There was one really hairy section for about a half mile, but nothing I wasn't able to duck and dive under.

The trail turned into really well-maintained mature forest after this section. The hunters up there really got out and did a phenomenal job. I let Q tear off along the trail. She was in a right mood for speed. It was insane. I had so much horse under me. (Oooh the sexual innuendos...) But she was, for the most part, really using her brain that day to think about things and not freak out about random shit.

We flew up a steep, leveled off on the ridge, walked down the adjacent steep, and looped around back toward home. I ducked and dived back through the hairy section to the haul road and decided to take that back to the connecting trail to the barn.

The best view of the farm

There were several larger trees across the haul road. We were able to jump a few (YAY) and for others I showed Q how to walk up the steep uphill bank to navigate around them. She took it on her own to do that after I showed her once. I was literally laughing out loud when she just hucked herself up over and around the next two we had to do that for. Smart, silly mare.

Day's total mileage was 7 miles. Average pace was 4.2 as we walked most of the haul road home since the surface is intermittently rocky and Q did the whole ride barefoot! It was a very nice ~4 mph walk on a loose rein. Kenai appreciated our speed as it gave him more time to investigate smells. [Side story about Kenai: He did so, so well sticking with us on this ride. He had his remote collar on, but I only had to trigger it once beyond a beep. The beeping moments were few and far between, too. A short, sharp whistle would send him screeching to a halt, and calling his name brought him to us. He loved getting out. He didn't even chase the deer we flushed several times. He thought about it the first time. The next two instances he paused and looked over his shoulder to make eye contact with me to confirm that no, sadly he couldn't chase them. GOOD DOG!]

: : : : :

The next day's ride was similar. Q was more antsy and less forward, but still thought critically about things and didn't spazz over anything silly.

I took my handsaw and struck out on the main haul road determined to hack down those trees as best I could. Until we get chainsaws out there (soon) the best I could do was cut the branches that keep the tree from sinking lower to the ground. The results of my work have provided me with about four 18" jumps along the 2.5 mile stretch of road.

We went through the hairy section of smaller road where I cleared out the more dangerous low limbs, and then I called it quits on cutting and had Q canter up the hill a ways.

We explored down and around on a trail I'd never ridden before. That section of the mountain is all mature hardwood forest. Thick canopy, very open understory. Its a joy to ride through.The trails suffered little damage from Sandy. With leaf out still a few weeks off, I plan to really explore this area as I can see for a long ways through the understory and through the canopy on the adjacent hillsides. The old roads stand out and appear to connect. I can't wait to explore.

Sunday's ride

I had Q do one major hill sprint, and then we walked the rest of the way home back on the haul road. The mileage was around 6.82 with an average speed of 3.6. This average speed includes all the stops I made and the time spent cutting. I didn't take the time to pause the GPS while I did this so there are many 0 mph minutes recorded.

Another great ride with Q though. So thrilled with her lately. Her forwardness on the trail coupled with chill attitude at the barn (although she seriously has baby-fever, she's always grazing as close as she can be through the fence to momma and foal and when she isn't able to be near them she watches them SO intently) make her a joy to work with. I think the race next week will go well (as long as she doesn't rush into heat from spending the haul over the mountains in the trailer with a very attractive gelding - more on that later).

Baby-fever evidence. Griffin could care less. Q? Q is obsessed with watching that damn foal.