Endurance has enabled me to fulfill most of my dreams of riding everywhere. Parades helped some with the city streets, though in a controlled manner. But riding through town when a parade wasn't in session? That I hadn't done...
...until Saturday night.
Unbeknownst to me, a group from our riding club gets together every year around this time to ride the city streets and look at all the Christmas lights. Rain, snow, or otherwise, they go. They carry candycanes and other candies for kids they may encounter, call "Merry Christmas" and "Happy Holidays" to everyone they meet, and pause as long as folks desire to let them pet the horses, chat about horses, or even sit on the horses for photos.
So, obviously, when I learned about this ride I 110% wanted in on the action. How fun!
I deliberated over which horse to take for awhile, but at the last minute, Mike agreed to go along, too, so both horses were able to go! I put Mike on Q per the norm, and I rode Griffin - his first experience in an urban environment!
I headed to the barn 75 minutes before I was due to meet the other folks downtown on Saturday evening to hook up the trailer, ready the horses, load them, and head to town.
As I drove along the road that parallels the field, I noted that damnit, the horses were in the far field across the creek! Ack! That would eat away precious time having to fetch them from there!
I pulled into the barn driveway, pondering the best plan of action, deciding to first hook up the trailer before trying to fetch the horses. Fortunately, hooking up the trailer went very smoothly. I backed up and was able to hook up on my first attempt, and the sometimes finicky lights connected on the first try, as well! #winning
With the trailer in the ready position, I rushed off to fetch the horses. But then I realized I'd forgotten halters and lead ropes *d'oh*, so I back tracked and snatched them before jogging across the field toward the creek.
I didn't have my waterproof boots on, but I hoped that if I launched myself across a shallow portion (3-5" deep) of the creek I could avoid water seeping into my tall insulated boots. As I approached the herd from the opposite side of the creek, heads came up in alert to note my presence. I called my sing song, "Grif-fin! Q-oo!" to let them know it was me and not a predator, as I weaved my way through thick multiflora rose searching for the best point of crossing.
I called twice more as I traipsed around, and Griffin began ambling toward me from his position behind Q as other members of the herd just stared, ears alert.
Q, motivated by Griffin's movement and my call moved into action, striking out with a very purposeful walk to keep ahead of the grey gelding.
Both horses broke into a trot, descending the far bank. I was thrilled!! No creek crossing for the human! Added bonus? My horses DO seem to recognize me, nevermind that this association is likely driven purely by food. I'm okay with that if it saves me walking!
"Grif-fin! Q-oo! Good horses! Grif-fin! Q-oo!" I sang as I danced backwards toward the barn. All of the horses were motivating in my direction behind my two now!
The horses emerged from the creek and trotted toward me. Q reached me first and then pinned her ears at all horses - Griffin included - who came near to me. Apparently I'm "hers" now. I laughed at her, haltered her, and pushed her aside a bit so I could reach Griffin and halter him. Q proceeded to nip his shoulder lightly with her lips as I did this, firming up her opinion on other horses being near to me. I laughed. Griffin flicked an ear.
The three of us jogged together across the pasture to the barn.
I tied them, grained them, and then proceeded to scrape the mud off Q who had decided to really lather it all over her body. The dust flew! Griffin, fortunately, was clean for once - or relatively so!
With most of the mud and dust off and their tails brushed out (cough cough SAIPH cough cough), I tacked Griffin up with a red pad and green breastplate, and Q with a green pad and red breastplate, stuffed both of their bridles into the car, and with 5 minutes to spare before I *needed* to depart, I was ready to load them.
My BO came down to help me out with loading, which was beneficial, because Griffin wouldn't load for me. There was no fear, just calm obstinance from my grey gelding. Fortunately though, he did load for my BO after several failed attempts with me. Q loaded with zero issues on the first try.
I really couldn't complain about the whole process considering neither horse has been asked to load on a dark trailer in the dark for me before!! #winningagain
And off we went!
Except not. Because you see, I thought I knew where we were meeting, but I was wrong. And so I proceeded to wind around on city streets with horse trailer in tow as I sought out the meeting location. I called every longstanding resident of town that I knew trying to ascertain where I needed to go, but finally one of the ladies I was meeting called me through FB messenger to help me navigate! HUZZAH!
During my aimless driving, Mike had begun following me (what an odd little caravan we were!) and so, upon pulling into the parking place, he was right there to help me get both horses off and decorated with garland and ribbon.
It turned out that only 3 others would be riding; Mike and I would make it a group of 5. Each of the other three had LEDs and battery operated Xmas lights adorning their horses and saddles. They looked great!
|Did I mention they both wore antlers/hats?|
We wove in and out the streets of many neighborhoods around town looking at lights, judging and scoring them. Griffin calmed down after about 30 minutes, finally accepting that this new nighttime urban environment wouldn't eat him. (Q was a star the whole time! Cool as a cucumber.)
Many people came out of their houses to greet us and we'd call holiday greetings as we passed.
Occasionally whole families with kids would rush out into the 25 degree weather to pet the horses and get candy. We even paused for a long while at one home so that their kids could sit on the horses (not Griffin) and have their pictures taken!
Halfway through our ride we stopped at a local restaurant/bar for some night caps. We tied the horses to a railing outside just like you see in old western movies. IT WAS SO COOL! I frequently peaked out the windows at the horses while we were inside, concerned that my two, new to this, may do something stupid and run off through the city streets. Nope. Totally chill. Both stood with a hind foot cocked half asleep the whole time!
With hands and feet warmed and our bellies full of appetizer snacks and warm adult beverages, we set back off - but only after photos with Santa who was at the establishment for an ugly sweater party. =)
|Our group!! And Santa!! The alley where the horses were tide is the dark area behind Q and the palomino paint.|
We rode through several more neighborhoods, stopped at a few more houses - even a party! - before calling it a night. We even sang a very poorly in-tune version of Rudloph the Red-nosed Reindeer through one neighborhood...which some guy walking his dog filmed LOL.
From my best reckoning mapping out the ride by hand in Endomondo, we rode somewhere around 10 miles during that 4.5 hour period (there was a good 30-45 minute break in the middle).
Griffin was very tired after nearly 4.5 hours of travels and new experiences and absolutely refused to step up onto the trailer to go home. He would simply stand at the door and go no further. I told him that I knew he was tired and I was sorry the step up was so big, but he just had to do it so we could go home and he could go back out with his friends and eat hay. In the end, it took Mike leading and me being very "big" and motivating from behind to get him on. Once on, he was THRILLED to find *gasp* hay in the trailer as he was *starving*. (Both horses paused numerous times to eat grass along our travels. Good little endurance ponies!) Q loaded without issue again, and we headed back to the barn where both were thrilled to be out with their friends again.
I was so thrilled that:
- I was able to get the trailer hooked up first go,
- both horses trotted across the field to meet me
- both horses loaded onto a dark trailer at night with minimal issue (and I was thankful that the minor issue was not fear related)
- Griffin tackled a huge new experience so well
- Q was an old pro at the whole "urban environment" thing, even in the dark
- both horses stood tied in an alley despite NEVER being introduced to that environment before
- both horses ate while on "trail" throughout the night
- and finally, that Q really took care of Mike after he'd imbibed a bit too much. What a good little mare!!!
And now, I present you with many blurry night photos. =)
|One of the better houses....and day-glo a light from my flash!|
|Q loved her S-hack!|
|Being a very good boy <3|
|What good horses!|
|Posing with a blue Christmas house|
|We met friends in the middle of the street in town|
|Tied and waiting while their "cowboys" refueled|
|The four of us|