Lauren joined me yesterday for a fast 10-mile ride on the rail trail with Q and Griffin. It was a warm, rainy day that was surprisingly comfortable - even in a sleeveless shirt. The weather was perfect for a faster paced ride because the rain/clouds helped keep the horses cooler in their halfway state of shedding that nasty winter coat in favor of cooler summer attire.
Griffin was more "up" than he'd been in weeks under saddle. He's always such a lazy thing this time of year as he sheds. As a result, I greet the days he's full of himself with open arms. It's infinitely more fun to ride a forward, willing partner! From the moment we left the property, he was in front of my leg, eager, and interested in the work at hand. I put him in front to lead, his favorite place.
We trotted the first 4 miles, gradually increasing our speed as the horses warmed up. At the 4-mile mark, I pushed Grif up into our first canter set of the day. I couldn't help but smile as he moved out with ease, pleased with both his eagerness to move out. As he settled into the canter, ears forward and happy, he seemed to only get stronger. His cadence didn't change, but it did become more powerful as we traveled down the trail. It was a complete joy to ride.
I brought him back to a trot as we approached the spot on the trail he always spooks (sheds are real scary, y'all). I turned to check on Lauren and Q to see how the little mare handled the fast pace* after we'd slowed to a trot. Lauren noted that she seemed just fine! Breathing a little heavier than she does at a trot, but nothing crazy at all.
*Q is always the slowest to shed her winter coat and has had an exceptionally hard time with our early, warm spring this year. I finally bib clipped her last week when her shedding stalled out. The clip seems to have been just what she needed, and I'm so happy to see her tackling things with ease again.
At the 5-mile mark, we turned and headed back, Q in the lead and Grif following. Lauren rode the little mare expertly as she powered forward in her gorgeous 10+ mph trot. It's always such a joy for me to watch others ride that little horse. She's so very athletic and places each foot with such care. I swoon every time I watch her.
As we reached the first big ½-mile straightaway on our return, I told Lauren, "If you're comfortable pushing her into a canter, feel free!" And they were off like a shot!
What was a canter quickly became a lovely gallop. I smiled at my little mare striding forward with happy ears. But I was only able to enjoy this scene for a moment before Grif devolved into what I can only describe as something akin to an over-exuberant frat boy trying to impress all of his best buds.
See, Grif has always had Opinions about being the "last" horse. As a youngster on group trail rides, he would immediately crumble in a grunty/squealy fit of [the most polite] crow hopping. He isn't actively trying to unseat his rider, but he very much wants that person to be aware of his Feelings about being last. Put him into second from last position and he immediately quits his shenanigans.
When Q struck off, it took mere seconds before Grif fell heavy onto the forehand and into the bridle in an effort to charge forward to keep up and pass Q. As she sped up, so did he, and his excitement over it all got the best of him.
Grif: ERMAHGERD! ZOOMIES! I'M GONNA WIN THIS RACE! THIS IS THE. BEST. *tosses in a small wiggly buck*
Me: *growling* GRIFFIN. STOP. THAT. RIGHT. NOW. *tries (and fails) to get him regain any semblance of balance and sit back on his hind end*
Grif: NEVER! I AM THE WORLD'S FASTEST AND GREATEST AND MOST AWESOME. HOLD MY BEER AND WATCH! *performs more small airs above the ground in complete excitement*
Me: OMG, GRIF. QUIT. I HATE YOU. THIS IS NOT FUN!
Grif: IT IS THE MOST FUN! HAVE I SHOWN YOU THIS ONE? *lunging twisting something* WASN'T THAT AWESOME?!
Me: YOU ASSHOLE! QUIT THIS SHIT! RIGHT. NOW!
Me: GRIF-FIN! FUC-KING STOP.
Grif: *throws in a particularly large (for him) buck*
Me: I HATE YOU. STOP. STOP. STOP. IT. IS. NOT. FUNNY.
Lauren slowed down at this point, a bit alarmed by my screeching. Grif, who did slow to a trot, took this moment to prance merrily in front of Q, where he continued to lead us down the trail like a little gentleman now that he was in his preferred leading position.
He really wasn't trying to unseat me. He was just so very excited about the whole situation. And as scared/angry as I was that I was about to possibly hit the turf at 20 mph because my horse simply could not even, I was equally amused by it all. He's such a freaking dork.
We had two more canter (truly canter and not gallop) sets before our cool down. Grif was lovely for everything - even when Q took the lead. Maybe my squawking stuck with him? I'd like to think so. lol
Both horses cooled out quickly on the last leg of the ride and were completely pulsed down by the time we pulled their saddles. We let them enjoy a few minutes of grazing in the barnyard before turning them back out with the herd... whence Grif galloped off to the herd as if he hadn't just tackled a fast 90 minute ride. Ridiculous boy.