Since Rhio is on the injured reserve list, that meant I had to get Red over to the barn where Rhio & Cricket live, so I would have horse for her to borrow. Luckily, Red's barn is just a mile through the woods and the properties abut each other. Since both property owners have had some logging work done recently, the trails are fairly passable as long as you stay in the equipment tracks.
I saddled up Red with the bareback pad & bridle (this was a handy choice - see later!) and we set off through the woods with Kelso on our heels. It was still quite chilly, around zero, so I was happy to have my Carhartts on - my bend-ability, however, was negligible & much ducking was required to negotiate the trails while avoiding as much of the inevitable snow-down-the-back-of-the-neck as possible. Also, I wore a backpack with a few things I intended to give/show to Gesa or needed for the morning (no saddle bags on the bareback pad.) This turned out to be a more challenging prospect than I had imagined. Even a light backpack really changes your balance! Also, it was quite bouncy at anything more than a walk! I don't think I'll make a habit of riding with a backpack.
We made it to the other barn with no major mishaps, although Red was snorting & blowing like we were on Mars. I admit, with the logging, it did look different back there - but, really, come on silly pony! I think he was just pissed that I'd taken him away from the morning hay.
Gesa saddled up Cricket with the Barefoot treeless saddle I'm borrowing, and I put Red's Synergist on him (so we could trade horses & trade saddles throughout the morning - trying each saddle on each horse.)
We mounted up in the indoor, and Gesa immediately got the "riding Cricket" grin! He is a fabulous ride and absolutely everyone who climbs aboard can't help but grin ear-to-ear. She really liked the Barefoot saddle, but had never ridden Cricket before, so didn't know how much was loving the horse (he has amazing soft gaits) and how much was the saddle. We switched saddles, trying the Barefoot on Red and putting the Synergist on Cricket. Then, we switched horses. Gesa has ridden Red before and is pretty familiar with him. She put him through his paces in the Barefoot & still loved the saddle. Cricket & I puttered around and I became convinced that I didn't particularly care for the Barefoot. It was quite interesting to switch back & forth between the 2 saddles, and on both horses - I think it gave us a good feel for each saddle independent of the horse effects.
Red wearing the Barefoot saddle
Christine & Tomas joined us & the three of us played leapfrog (teaching the horses to pass & be passed while maintaining a steady pace - theoretically, anyway!) for several laps around the arena both directions, and Cricket gave me a marvelous little lope.
Christine & Tomas, and Gesa & Red - illustrating what we were REALLY doing all morning - gabbing!
Kelso - reluctantly supervising while wishing the car was here so he could go sit in it
We decided to introduce Red to the soccer ball after we were done riding. He took to it immediately, showing the most interest of any of the horses!
Red nuzzles the ball while I adjust stirrups preparing to mount up & play - this was less than 3 minutes after he first saw the ball.
Yes, we're in the midst of kicking the ball!
Get that ball!
Once Red had demonstrated his soccer prowess (he was elected team captain, and so far sole member, of Team Edward) he was allowed to munch some hay in a stall while Rhio got his bandage changed. Today he was a perfect pony, walked right into the tack room, and his wound is looking slightly better. So far no trouble keeping the boot & bandage on even out in the pasture!
Finally, Red & I got ready to head home, leaving the backpack & Carhartt's behind. Rhio, Cody, & Winston took our walk through the alleyway by their pasture as an invitation to run through the deep snow behind us, revving Red up & setting the tone for the entire ride home. Red transformed into a fire-breathing dragon and about dragged my arms out of their sockets! I was thrilled to have chosen bit & bridle over riding in the rope halter today! Also I was glad to have ditched the Carhartt's because I was very sweaty by the time we got back to his barn. I think I did a lot of yelling, too - but I don't think it made much of an impression on him. Needless to say, there are no photos of our return ride because I couldn't let go of the reins to grab the camera nor would they have been worth looking at if I had - too much motion for still photography! I stuck like a burr to that bareback pad & managed not to get an eye poked out - so I guess we count that as a success :) It sure felt an awful lot like the start of an endurance ride - only we're not typically plunging through several feet of snow while attempting to beat recent Kentucky Derby winners and dodge overhanging, snow-laden pine trees.