Griffin was his usual eager self, minus his sometimes spunky behavior on this day. Mike and I brought both of my horses in and set about tacking each up: Q in his Aussie saddle and Griffin in the Wintec, as I don't want to put my nice Ansur on my unpredictable greenie who may or may not dump me and run away into the abyss!
I once again used the halter-bridle with the little grey, too, since I've been receiving better results with it at this point in time. As with riding in the round pen on NYE, fighting the battle of the bit with Griffin isn't worth it to me on the trails at this point. I want to set him up for other successes - like moving forward down the trial, navigating potential obstacles, and enjoying his trail job - not worry about fighting with him over the bit and bridle.
Prepped and ready, Mike and I mounted up and headed out from the barn, Griffin choosing the lead position instantly.
|Mike and Q-bee|
remember the temp on this day; it was overcast without rain and brisk enough for me to choose to wear my smartwool leggings with my breeches + my insulated riding boots. I was comfortable.
The ice leading up to the creek was the first obstacle for the day. With Griffin in the lead, I didn't know how it would go. Honestly though, I'd never done that on Q either, so even if she'd been in the lead its hard to say if she'd have been any more predictable than Griffin. Fortunately, the ice crunching and breaking (down into about 2"-4" of water) was a non-issue for both of my horses!
We proceeded to cross the creek where both drank deeply for a few moments before proceeding onward through the back open field toward the woods.
Mike and I chatted amiably the whole time about a myriad of things. Conversations come easily between us. We took a few moments in the field to goof off with photos on our phones since both horses were so relaxed and forward of their own accord.
We trucked up the first hill after the field photoshoot at a slow trot, Griffin huffing like it was the worst thing ever. I laughed at him and urged him onward. He was alert to his surroundings, but unbothered by everything we passed. He wove skillfully through saplings (trails still aren't 100% since Sandy hit last year) with only a little guidance from me as we worked our way to the main trails. Such a great little horse!
Instead of turning the first half mile of the ride all into an uphill journey, I chose instead to drop immediately onto the haul road with its more moderate grade.
In anticipation of taking this route, I'd put Renegades on Griffin's fronts. He'd been ouchy the weekend prior, so I wanted him to be able to enjoy life a little more without the added discomfort of ouchie feet on the rocks. Q was fine. She's got the greatest feet ever. (One of the reasons I'd really love to breed her one day - I want those feet in another horse!!!)
|Big ol' feet on those legs of hers!|
Griffin, still in the lead, wasn't so sure about trotting too much. He was interested and forward, just not with great haste.
I requested for Mike to put Q in the lead and head out at a nice trot, cantering if he chose. The two of them headed out, leading for the rest of the haul road at a medium-fast trot or a canter.
Griffin was a bit surprised at the increase in speed at first, but with time, despite his initial huffin' and puffin' he really seemed to enjoy himself! My requests for him to move faster were more and more minor as he chose to move out more willingly.
From here, the trail we chose followed along the haul road, up the mountain along a skid road, and then transitioned to some very established 4-wheeler trails in the area of mature forest where we would "thread the needle" by creating a small loop then doubling back on more or less the same trail we'd followed out.
Once Mike and I had crested out of the successional forest and into the mature forest, I told him to turn Q loose. Its one of my favorite places - and her favorite places - to gallop. The stretch is only a hundred yards or so long on a slight uphill grade on perfect footing.
With only the tiniest of smooches from Mike, Q rocketed off in front of Griffin and I. Griffin, who had been quite perky since reaching this stretch of trail with its ideal footing, quickly and quietly acquiesced to my request to canter through this area. He even surprised me by powering into a gallop for a very short snap! Good boy!
Mike and I were laughing and giggling after this short spurt of speed from the horses, who were now a little prancey and full of themselves after the fun. We wound around the crest of the mountain and then shot up another incline - the steepest of the day!
Griffin led the charge up this one! He did a far better job of things than I expected, too! Q passed him near the top though, powering forward the way she does, as if to say, "Come on little baby, THIS is endurance! Gotta power on through these short spurts. We'll be rewarded in just a few seconds with a nice long downhill walk!!" Griffin puffed along behind her giving it his best.
At the last little flat area before we descended for awhile, Griffin took the lead again, springing into a nice little canter.
It was in this moment when I could really tell that the job he'd been given had really clicked for him. He knew that moving out in areas of perfect trail (like this short stretch) was what he should do. He did it with willingness and gusto, falling back to a walk smoothly as we crested a slight rise and began our descent.
He's after my heart, this one. <3
Griffin was still a bit startled over some contrast differences between the ground and the puddles/ice, but he was far less hesitant about it this time than the previous week. Each puddle/ice spot he would drop his nose to double-check that it was indeed not a monster, and then he'd continue on. He even did a phenomenal job navigating his way through a puddle with ice that was over an inch thick!!
The only thing that gave him worry, once again, was an upturned root ball from a tree that had fallen during Sandy. Mike and Q helped us through this spot and all was well.
The whole ride, somewhere around 7 miles looking back on previous journeys on this same path from the spring (my GPS wasn't working due to low battery this time), was wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. Mike makes for great company and incredible conversation. Not to mention, he and Q work really well together. I love that I have a chaperone so that I can ride my little grey horse and help him learn his new job on the trail without having to worry about being alone and in trouble if something bad happened.
I think my near future is going to be quite full of rides like these. And I've got to admit, I'm not too sad to see the amount of solo riding I did go away. Another person + horse makes the whole experience 10x better!